“The message of the gospel is a message from God that leads us to salvation,” said J. Mack Stiles, a former church planter and current director of Messenger Ministries, Inc.
Stiles outlined 10 critical components of biblical evangelism — sharing the good news of the gospel — during a breakout session at the 2023 REACH Evangelism and Missions Conference, held March 13–14 at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
But first, Stiles defined evangelism: “Teaching or preaching the gospel with the aim to convert or persuade.”
1. Know the gospel.
Stiles pointed to 1 Peter 3:15, where believers are admonished to always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
“We must become students of the gospel,” he concluded during the Kentucky Baptist Convention REACH Conference.
The four-fold structure of God, man, Christ and response is the baseline for believers to understand the gospel.
And it’s important to know what isn’t the gospel, too.
“Don’t misunderstand an implication of the gospel for the gospel itself,” Stiles added. He said implications of the gospel include ministries that meet physical needs and Christian leadership.
2. Speak the gospel.
Knowing what is the gospel and what isn’t the gospel is just the first step; Stiles added that believers must be equipped to put the good news into words.
“We need to be intentional; we need to take radical steps,” he said.
Sometimes taking the leap to talk about Jesus can be a difficult decision, and Stiles compared evangelism to pushing a ball uphill.
“Awkward is better than silence in evangelism,” Stiles added. “So make the decision (to speak the gospel).”
3. Live the gospel.
“Everything we do centers around the gospel,” Stiles said, identifying the good news of Jesus as the central hub of a Christian’s life.
Pointing to Galatians 2:14, Stiles said the conduct of believers must line up with the truth of the gospel — and investing time in spiritual disciplines such as prayer and reading the Bible are ways to grow in faithfulness and love for Jesus.
“We want to be so in love with Jesus, so connected to him, you can’t help the gospel coming out of you,” he added.
4. Have confidence in the gospel.
Stiles admonished attendees to rely on the gospel and not on church programs, which can provide bursts of energy but quickly fizzle out, allowing believers to feel like they have practiced evangelism when they have not.
“Less confidence in programs, more confidence in the gospel itself,” he said.
5. Don’t assume the gospel.
Stiles said that the gospel message can be lost in 4 generations where the gospel if first given, then it is assumed, then it is twisted, and finally, it is lost.
Common bad understandings brought on by assuming and twisting the gospel include an expectation of morality, not love; outward action confused with genuine Christian faith; and viewing the cross as an example rather than a place where God’s wrath and love meet.
“Don’t let assumptions kill your witness,” he added.
6. Understand gospel conversion.
According to Mark 1:15, conversion includes repentance and belief.
“Biblical conversion is new, not nice,” Stiles said. “It’s where God reaches into our hearts, rips out our stone-cold heart and puts in a heart of flesh. That’s what conversion is. It’s accompanied by the fruit of repentance.”
7. Be bold and clear on conversion.
“We need to slay our fear of man and be bold,” Stiles said. “And once we’ve done that, we need to be bold and clear with the gospel.”
He noted that while 99% of his evangelistic efforts are failures, it’s usually because he got one of those two elements wrong. “We’ve got to get this right; it’s so hard to get it right.”
8. Love communities with the gospel.
“Loving (local church) communities are the most important evangelistic tool you have in your toolbox,” Stiles said, pointing to John 13:34 and John 17:20–21.
Communion, singing, baptism, sacrificial giving and preaching God’s Word are all good things, but “Jesus says the love we have for one another in the church is a statement that we are truly converted,” he said.
9. The gospel as a spiritual discipline.
“Ask God to use you to bring people to faith,” Stiles said, adding that evangelism is a spiritual discipline believers are called to practice.
10. Everyone exercises gospel leadership.
Stiles concluded that everyone within the church exercises some degree of leadership.
“Gospel leadership in your churches needs to be championed!” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Tessa Redmond and originally published by Kentucky Today.